Eagle nixes raising age to buy tobacco products
Town board splits in rejecting proposal to increase taxes, raise purchase age
EAGLE — Eagle’s town board will not raise the age to purchase tobacco products.
The board did leave open the possibility to raise taxes on tobacco products. However, that would not come before Eagle voters until the 2020 elections.
In a split vote, the seven board members said 18-year olds are considered adults who are responsible for their own decisions.
“People are considered adults at 18 and should be given all the responsibilities of an adult,” board member Kevin Brubeck said.
After the county commissioners approved a similar measure Tuesday morning, Eagle stands alone in declining to raise the purchase age from 18 to 21.
Matt Solomon called raising the age “a diversion.”
“Are we diverting a problem to age 21 instead of dealing with it?” Solomon asked. “Underage people utilizing these products are already breaking the law. If you’re in the eighth grade and selling it to someone else you’re breaking two laws.”
“I don’t think age is the issue,” Solomon said.
While acknowledging the problem, Solomon said raising the purchase age is “a band-aid on an arterial bleed.”
“Flabbergasted and disappointed”
Town board member Andy Jessen supported the measure and said he was “flabbergasted and disappointed” at the board’s decision.
Mayor Anne McKibbon agreed with Jessen, saying, “I think we should make it slightly more difficult for kids to get involved in something like this.”
‘This is an epidemic’
Five Eagle Valley High School seniors hung around through Tuesday’s long meeting to voice their support of the anti-tobacco package, waiting until after 10 p.m. as the board waded through details of a development project.
Much of the alarm centers around teen vaping: Smoking and inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar devices. It releases vapors instead of smoke and is easier to conceal, Lilly Reynolds said.
Colorado is double the national average in teen vaping and leads the nation, Lilly Reynolds said.
“We have a problem,” she said. “Vaping is unlike anything that has hit the market before.”
Raising the age to legally purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 could help high school students who turn 18 and are hammered by younger classmates to buy them vaping supplies. Vaping has reached into middle schools where Ella Srholez said her younger sister was threatened when she walked in on a group of seven middle school girls vaping in the school restroom.
“It steals lives when someone becomes addicted to something,” Srholez said.
Rebecca Schiffenelli took a more financial approach. Anti-vaping lectures do not work. Raising the age and the price might. The more expensive tobacco and vaping are the more likely teens are to avoid it, Schiffenelli said.
“This is an epidemic,” Riley Dudley said. “This is the impacting both quarterback and the quiet kid in the corner.”
If Eagle does not raise the purchase age, it could become ground zero for vaping, Riley said.
Gov. Jared Polis has lauded Summit County’s health care purchasing collaborative as a “transformative” step toward lowering the cost of health care. Officials in Eagle County are now hoping they can adopt a similar model for residents here.